“I am a new Christian. What books or resources do I need to study the Bible? How do I use them?”
ALWAYS begin with a prayerful and thorough study of the Bible alone, study Scripture in context and let Scripture interpret Scripture.
Get a Bible that is convenient to use in your study. If you have not read the Bible much and have difficulty understanding it, I would recommend starting out with one of the newer versions such as English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible or New International Version.
Remember, study tools are only secondary and meant to aid your study. Various translations of the Bible and most Biblical reference works are available online and as computer software. Typically your local elders, preacher and/or Bible teacher can further recommend courses/books on HOW to study the Bible. Here is a brief explanation of common Bible study resources (highlighted in purple) . . .
A Bible dictionary will give meanings of words, places and names that are unique to the Bible while a regular dictionary (in your native language) will give meanings of words that are not strictly Biblical.
Books on Biblical geography will help you to understand references to cities, mountains, rivers etc. Books on Biblical customs will help you to understand the political situations, home life, social systems, occupations, and cultures of Bible people, etc.
General books on ancient history will help you to understand the historical context of world events in relation to Biblical history. For example, Stonehenge was erected during the times of Job and Abraham. The first recorded Olympic games were held during the times of the Old Testament prophets Amos and Hosea.
Although many Bibles include a concordance in the back, they are often too brief to be of much help. For regular study, I would recommend a separate and complete (exhaustive) concordance. (Make sure it is of the same translation of the Bible that you are using!) A complete concordance lists every word in the Bible, its meaning and every place where it is found. An expository allows you to conduct even more in-depth word studies.
A common question asked is, “Why are there so translations?” Here are at least 3 reasons…
- The original Scripture manuscripts were written in the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages. Thus translations into other languages were (are) needed.
- Translators do not always use the same set of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.
- Language is constantly changing. For example, new words are constantly introduced into the English vocabulary while other words become obsolete. Some words have changed their meaning over time. How many people do you know still write, speak and use King James English (from the 1600s)?
Comparing different translations (or versions) can be helpful but be aware that some are not accurate at all. They may actually be a paraphrase or a commentary.
A commentary is an explanation by one or more people about the meaning of the Bible or a part of it. Because of the possibility of human error and bias, well acquaint yourself with the religious viewpoints of the commentator and their credentials in the Biblical languages.
Many beginning students of the Bible become enthusiastic and collect more resources than they need or know how to use. Start with a good translation and your dictionaries. Add other study aids as you need them and you will usually get books that are more helpful. Congratulations and welcome the family! Thanks for your question.